Play Guitar In 7 Days!
Lesson Six: “Hi-Hat”
More people have quit playing guitar because of the F chord than for any other reason! Don’t let this happen to you!
An easy way to make peace with F is to start with the F5 chord. (Students of meteorology will note that the term “F5” also signifies the most violent and dangerous tornado that can exist – this of course is pure coincidence and has nothing to do with the key of F per se.)
This chord is neither major nor minor: it is said to be “neutered” (which brings back more barbaric images of cats from Lesson Five, which we are trying to avoid). This three-note chord is stacked root-fifth-octave, which is known in the biz as a “power chord.” This “neutered” chord is far from impotent! Not only is it the home chord in “Hi-Hat”; it was featured prominently in the classic grunge-rock tune “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana.
This chord will work on any fret of the guitar! If you move it up two frets, it will be a G5. Two more frets… you guessed it: H5! No, psyche! It starts over at A5. Move up two more frets to the 7th: B5. Yep! Two more frets… Yes? C5? Nope, wrong: it’s C#5. Just when you think you’ve figured out music, it does a little twist to keep you on your toes.
You can also play this chord moved up a string:
This chord will also work on any fret of the guitar!
Moving the fingers up another string to the 4th gives a completely different kind of chord. So much for the guitar being predictable!
Reconfiguring Chords (Recap/Deja Vu)
I once knew a girl who fingered the F-chord like this. I don’t know where she is now, or why she did it, but it was the damndest thing I ever did see.
To reiterate from Lesson 5: You can use different fingerings than the traditional, orthodox ones and the chords will still sound the same.
The guitar is a trickster instrument
It’s no secret that the guitar is a trickster instrument, or to use pedagogical language, idiosyncratic (see Lesson 4). This may explain why it attracts certain individuals who disdain rules and bourgeois concepts like job security. The opening chord of “Hi-Hat” sounds like a typical F5 chord, but close listening reveals the bottom note undulating from a semitone below up to pitch every two or three quavers (in the King’s English). This metal-machine sound is achieved by lifting the 1st finger off the 6th string (see diagram below)
and then taking your left-hand thumb and pushing down on the 6th string behind the nut. (See the same diagram for where the nut is located; it is the thingy that separates the fingerboard from the headstock.)
In a lilting rhythm, with your thumb wrapped around the neck behind the nut, push down on the 6th string, just enough to raise the pitch a semitone (from E to F if you are in standard tuning). This may require effort. We do not advise performing this on acoustic or nylon-string classical guitar. If the reach is too far, you can ask a friend to help!
Workaround/Hack: A similar but different effect can be achieved by hammering-on the 1st finger from F5/E to F, but this will only give you two notes, not all of the notes in-between: think digital clock vs. analog clock. Either way, take comfort in knowing that you always have options.